Fetch me a llama! I need to make a sacrifice. That’s the way to show gratitude to Pachamama. In Peru, Pachamama is the goddess Mother Earth; in London, she is a new Marylebone restaurant. But the name is apt: this is a place to revere. Four pillars underpin the Quechuan cosmos (water, earth, sun and moon), and four pillars support a great restaurant: food, service, decor and ambience. This hotspot has it all – and a price tag that mere mortals can afford.
We arrived with no great expectations. There’d been no buzz about the place, and we’d have walked past the door had we not been looking for it. Just another Peruvian bandwagon-jumper, we assumed, trotting down the stairwell into the basement. Oh, how wrong we were.
Firstly, it looked gorgeous. There was a thoughtful mix of rough and smooth, like a beautiful old hacienda in the process of being done up: chunks of plaster knocked out of the pillars, pretty vintage lampshades, wooden dressers full of pot plants. Low lighting, laidback Ibiza sounds and a constant influx of impeccably groomed twenty- and thirtysomethings (where do they all come from? Are the cooks cloning them in the kitchen?) made for a vibe that was electric. Not bad for a restaurant that had been open for less than a month, and should by rights have been inhabited only by friends, family, and bloggers with big cameras. On weekends, said our nothing’s-too-much-trouble waiter, the place goes from being ‘civilised party’, to ‘party party’, with a DJ on the decks from 8pm to 11pm. Wine kicks off at £4.50 a glass; all cocktails cost £8.50; the tasting menu’s £35.
But the best surprise was that the food looked – and, crucially, tasted – just as good as the crowd. Modish (but never wacky) Peruvian plates combined finesse and flavour with aplomb. A terrific sea bass ceviche came with chunks of crunchy radish and tendrils of samphire – a nice twist. Dinky skewers of chargrilled veal heart on a delicate celeriac purée would have converted even fervent offal avoiders (tip: ask for the fiery salsa on the side). Then there was a sweet baked plantain, offset by crumbly, salty feta and a mild aji (chilli salsa). And to finish? A bowl of glistening rice pudding, with buried treasure of tangy damson chunks at its centre, a scoop of fragrant own-made cinnamon ice cream melting on top and a smattering of toasted, flaked almonds. Divine.
All hail Pachamama! we say. Now, where’s that llama?